A new law implements a criminal and civil penalty regime that makes it illegal to ask for, receive, offer or provide payment or other benefits to a sponsor in return for a range of 'sponsorship-related events.' The new regime applies to temporary sponsored work visas and skilled permanent employer-sponsored visas, including the subclass 457 visa, Employer Nomination Scheme subclass 186 visa and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme subclass 187 visa.
This legislation is a response to recommendations of the subclass 457 independent review panel held in 2014, and is likely to come into effect by May 30, 2016.
A 'sponsorship-related event' includes any of the following:
- Applying for approval as a sponsor or for a variation of a term of sponsorship;
- Becoming (or not ceasing to be) a party to a work agreement;
- Agreeing to be an approved sponsor for an applicant;
- Nominating a person for a sponsored visa, or not withdrawing a nomination; and
- Employing a person to work in a position or undertake an activity for which a sponsored visa will be or has been applied for or granted.
Maximum penalties for breaches of the new law include:
- two years imprisonment;
- a criminal penalty of AUD 64,800 per offence for an individual or AUD 324,000 per offence for a corporation; and
- A civil penalty of AUD 43,200 per offence for an individual or AUD 216,000 per offence for a corporation.
Executive officers (directors, chief executive officers, chief financial officers and company secretaries) may also be liable in particular circumstances where a corporation commits an offense under the regime.
What This Means for Employers and Foreign Nationals
Employers should be aware of the new law and the severe consequences of breaches.